Category: Opinion Written by George E. Curry
(NNPA)—A decade after carefully ruling in two University of Michigan cases—striking down the undergraduate admissions procedures and upholding those implemented by the law school—the U.S. Supreme Court seems on course to strike down even the mildest form of affirmative action admissions in higher education.
After oral arguments in a case brought by a White student who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, the justices are expected to hand down a ruling in late June or early July. Rather than await the outcome of that case, last week the court accepted another challenge to affirmative action in Michigan, which will not be argued until the October term.
The fact that the court accepted the Texas and Michigan cases, after higher education officials thought the matter was settled law, is a clear indication that the conservative-leaning court plans to eviscerate race- and gender-conscious college admissions programs, no matter how conservative or narrowly drawn. If the court had other intentions, it would have left lower court rulings favorable to affirmative action in the two cases stand.
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the case the court is expected to rule on in late June, was brought by Abigail Fisher, a 22-year-old White woman who was rejected for admission in the fall of 2008. Under the University of Texas admissions program, the top 10 percent of each high school graduating class was guaranteed admission to the state’s flagship university. When Fisher applied, 90 percent of the students were selected that way.
The other 10 percent of applicants were admitted based on a variety of factors, including extracurricular activities, awards and honors, work experience, socioeconomic status, standardized test scores and race. Of all of those factors, Fisher decided to challenge admissions because the university considered race as one of many factors.
“Race is only one modest factor among many others weighed; it is considered only in an individualized and contextual way…and admissions officers do not know an applicant’s race when they decide [who] to admit in UT’s process,” the university argued in its brief.
University of Texas officials said if the modest affirmative action program had not been in place, Fisher still would not have qualified for admission. The district and appeals courts agreed, ruling against Fisher. But the Supreme Court decided to accept the case anyway.
Even more surprising was the court’s decision to accept another Michigan case, Schulette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, while Fisher is still pending.
After the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in the University of Michigan law school case, 58 percent of voters adopted Proposal 2 in 2006, which prohibited discrimination or preferential treatment in public education, government contracting and public employment based on race, ethnicity or gender. It was modeled after a ballot measure passed by California voters in 1996.
Supporters of affirmative action in Michigan, lodged a legal challenge to Proposal 2, paving the path for the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to rule 8-7 that ballot initiative, which amended the state constitution, violated the federal Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the percentage of Black students enrolled at the University of Michigan had dropped from 6.7 percent in 2006 to 4.5 percent in 2010 as a result of Proposal 2.
The permissible use of affirmative action was thought to be decided for good in 2003. In Gratz v. Bollinger, the court ruled that the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions program violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment when it assigned 20 points to minority applicants.
But in Grutter v. Bollinger, the court ruled that when narrowly tailored, race can be lawfully used in combination with other factors as part of the University of Michigan Law School admissions process. In her written opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cited benefits of “obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.”
O’Connor, who has since retired from the court, said she did not envision affirmative action in place forever. In fact, she suggested 25 years, without giving a reason why it would not be needed beyond that point.
Now, just 10 years later—and despite this nation’s horrible history on race—the conservative majority on the court seem unwilling to leave affirmative action in place for another 15 years.
As Justice Stephen G. Breyer, a supporter of affirmative action, said last October: “Grutter said it would be good law for at least 25 years, and I know that time flies, but I think only nine of those years have passed.”
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the NNPA. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 05:59
Category: Opinion Written by Louis 'Hop' Kendrick
In the year 2005 I was a candidate for mayor, and I never believed that I could possibly be elected numerically. However I will always perceive my campaign as a winning campaign. Why? It was impossible for me to allow a campaign for the mayor to take place in the city of Pittsburgh where Black people made up 30 percent of the population with not one Black man or woman willing to run. I had no expectations that Blacks would vote for me in record numbers, because I know the persons who have always put the Democratic Party before the welfare of the overall Black communities.
I started in politics when I was 17 years of age, because at that period of time I really believed that sophisticated voting was the answer to the problems of colored persons—we were not Black yet. Colored persons often challenged me, because I had the nerve to attempt to change a system that was choking them. Over the years I have often been disillusioned, disappointed, disgusted, but I was understanding of what we, as a people had been exposed to. Many Blacks often ask me why I never got angry with so call Black leaders who failed to support me in my campaign for mayor, and I simply reply I don’t have the energy to waste. I hope my readers remember who they supported and once he got elected failed to appoint one Black to his cabinet.
On April 1, 2013 I attended a press conference hosted by Pittsburgh City Controller, Michael Lamb. It was the press conference where he announced that he was withdrawing from the Pittsburgh Mayor’s primary and that he was asking his supporters to support Jack Wagner and he gave his reasons why. I was a supporter of Michael Lamb, because I believed that he was the most likely candidate to truly make the city of Pittsburgh the most livable for Blacks and Whites.
I had a conversation with State Representative Jake Wheatley about how the Black communities could have the greatest impact on the mayor’s election, and that would include just two candidates running, and he preparing himself or some other Black man or woman to run four years from now. It never ceases to amaze me how many try to compare a Black running for the Mayor of Pittsburgh with Obama running for president. There is absolutely no comparison.
It is now my belief that if this campaign becomes a campaign of two candidates, Bill Peduto and Jack Wagner, then the Black communities can unite behind one candidate thereby increasing that candidate’s opportunity to be victorious. The Black communities will be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Black voters were definitely instrumental.
A disturbing factor is that we—the Black communities—once again fail to understand that conditions should drive us not circumstances like Ravenstahl resigning. Don’t we realize the mayoral election is every four years?
If three candidates run Black votes will be divided three ways and if the wrong White candidate becomes the mayor he will state, “I don’t owe you anything.” We have been in this situation before, too frequently.
Please remember to support Kingsley Association.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 09:35
Category: Opinion Written by Marian Wright Edelman
(NNPA)—Why is the National Rifle Association so afraid of the truth? There are many misconceptions about guns and gun violence swirling around in Americans’ minds—and in many cases, this misinformation is no accident. For years the NRA has blocked the truth and actively fought against and prevented research in the causes and costs of gun violence because they don’t want Americans to know the truth about guns, how to prevent gun violence, and how to make themselves and their children safer. Why else would they have Congress pull gun injury prevention research funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health? Why have we put up so long with efforts to block all research on a huge public health threat that injures and kills tens of thousands of Americans every year?
As Drs. Arthur Kellermann and Frederick Rivara wrote an article titled, “Silencing the Science on Gun Research” in the February 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association. They wrote, “What can be done to reduce the number of US residents who die each year from firearms, currently more than 31,000 annually? The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997.”
Instead, they note that beginning in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress began mounting an all-out effort to eliminate any funding for research connected to gun injury prevention. And as Drs. Kellermann and Rivara explain, this continued refusal to fund any research isn’t just an academic matter. “Injury prevention research can have real and lasting effects. Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans dying in motor vehicle crashes has decreased by 31 percent. Deaths from fires and drowning have been reduced even more, by 38 percent and 52 percent, respectively. This progress was achieved without banning automobiles, swimming pools, or matches. Instead, it came from translating research findings into effective interventions. Given the chance, could researchers achieve similar progress with firearm violence? It will not be possible to find out unless Congress rescinds its moratorium on firearm injury prevention research.”
Why is the NRA afraid of seeking the truth and having citizens make informed decisions about how best to ensure their and their children’s safety? Their concerted campaign to hide the truth and block research is finally facing new scrutiny and opposition. President Obama’s proposed gun safety package would end the freeze on gun injury prevention research although the amounts requested are inadequate. Ignorance is not bliss or sensible or sound policy, and in the case of our national gun violence epidemic, ignorance is actually fatal. We need to make decisions based on the truth and counter the NRA misinformation that has been infecting our nation.
It’s time to challenge and deflate NRA misinformation and recognize that it does not speak for most American gun owners or even the majority of its membership. For example, polling data shows that 85 percent of gun owners and 74 percent of NRA members support universal background checks—a policy position the NRA vehemently opposes.
The NRA argues that background checks don’t work. The reality is that criminal background checks do work and making them universal at the federal level would make them far more effective. Since its implementation in 1994, the Brady Law, which instituted a federal background check requirement for sales through licensed dealers, has denied 2.1 million applications to purchase a firearm. But its impact has been limited by the ability of criminals to access firearms through private sales, since only sales by federally licensed dealers require a background check; unlicensed dealers, including those at gun shows and on the Internet and other private sales do not. An analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns reveals that states that don’t require background checks for handgun sales at gun shows export guns used to commit crimes 2.5 times more often than states that do. As much as 40 percent of gun sales may be occurring through these private sales, a loophole that common sense and the vast majority of Americans demand we fix.
Another bit of misinformation from the NRA is that universal background checks will lead to a registry of gun owners. The Brady Law explicitly bans the creation of a gun owner registry, and under that law instant criminal background checks have been made on more than 100 million gun sales in the last decade without leading to the formation of a gun registry. Here again, misinformation has paralyzed effective gun safety protections. The vast majority of responsible gun owners support background checks because they know that the only people who will be negatively impacted are criminals and those who sell them firearms.
Please do your homework and decide for yourself. Educate yourself on what the NRA wants you to believe by reading the Children’s Defense Fund’s updated fact sheet “The Truth About Guns.” During this Easter recess, go to your members of Congress’ town hall meetings and let your members know that the time to be held hostage to the NRA lobby is over. Let’s break the NRA lock on the research door to learn and share the truth about the human, economic and public safety costs of gun violence in our nation. I believe the truth will set us free.
(Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 05:59
Category: Opinion Written by Ulish Carter
Recently the Pittsburgh School Board voted 7-1-1 to renew Superintendent Linda Lane’s contract for another three years. I think it was one of the best decisions they have made.
With the Pittsburgh school system and urban school systems as a whole throughout this country going through such crisis and showing a lack of high achievements, why keep her?
The first crisis was the decline in students in public schools leading to the need to close schools to keep the cost down. This is what John Thompson tried to do but at that time the board could not accept a Black man telling them what to do, and closing their schools down. But when Mark Roosevelt came in and said basically the same thing they listened, because they finally realized that it had to be done even though they didn’t like it. The biggest costs were up keeping schools, which were under populated, and not selling closed school buildings.
When Lane took over, the need was to trim or eliminate the deficit spending while finishing what Roosevelt started in school closings, and she did it. Even though she had to cut hundreds of teachers, go against the union, and close more schools; she was able to accomplish it all. The system is now down to where it should be in the number of schools, and working within its budget.
You ask, “what about education?” What about it? Nothing drastic could be done in education as long as those problems were there and now they’re gone. Now the media, School Board members, and Dr. Lane can concentrate on education without all the other distractions.
In the next three years we need to compare the Pittsburgh school systems to other urban school systems throughout the country in several areas:
1. Substantially decreasing the percentage of dropouts.
2. Equalizing the racial differences between Black students and Whites. Why aren’t Blacks performing equal to Whites in the same classrooms? This has to be solved.
3. Improving the performances of all students in reading and basic math.
4. Keeping spending at a level in which the budget stays balanced, which includes selling all properties not in use.
5. Implementing after school and mentoring programs across the board to improve not only the academic performances of the students but to expose them to more career fields.
6. Creating a relationship with private industry, non-profits, trade schools and higher education institutions throughout the region to make sure Pittsburgh Public School students are among the first in line when it comes to accepting them and preparing them for the future. Pittsburgh Promise is a great beginning but it needs to be expanded into including more students by getting more businesses contributing to it.
A system must be created that follows the child from pre-school through high school graduation, into college, trade school or military. Beginning to end. Our kids must be prepared for the world they are going to enter when they graduate. This means the school system working with the students, parents, private industry, politicians, trade schools and colleges. No child should be left behind. And no one can do it better than Public Schools. They are doing it at CAPA; they are doing it at Obama Academy, why not all the schools.
Even though I’m very glad to see what Charter Schools are doing and Private Schools are doing, they are still supplements, with nothing taking the place of the Public Schools for low and moderate-income families. If Public Schools are eliminated then there will be lots of kids left behind, who can’t get into these other schools. Many are being kicked out now and sent back to Public Schools. What about the kids whose parent either will not or cannot help them achieve in school?
One of Dr. Lane’s biggest challenges will be creating interest in kids who are coming to school hungry, kids coming from abusive homes, who come from parents or are being influenced by other kids who see education as being an Uncle Tom, or being White. We must show them successful Blacks who were not Uncle Toms, men like Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the many, many others who have put their lives on the line for the progress of Black people through education. They can be found just about everywhere in Pittsburgh. Being an Uncle Tom is really not getting an education. Getting an education gives you the power to determine what you want to be, where as NO education allows others to dictate to you what they want you to be. The doors are generally open for the educated and shut for the uneducated. Our ancestors fought so hard for the right to an education. Most Black colleges were founded by the belief that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. We can’t just give up.
Dr. Lane has a great opportunity to lead Pittsburgh to uncharted territories for an urban school system. And that is to be one of if not the best urban school system in the country, and to be able to compete with the suburban schools despite not having the resources they have or being at the educational level they are at in the beginning. I believe she sincerely wants this system to work, she understands the Black students and the obstacles in their way that they must overcome and her concern for students, teachers and parents will guide her. We don’t need to start all over with a new Superintendent; we need to grow with what we have. She has three years to grow Pittsburgh into one of the best school systems in the country and we all should be helping by working at this through Dr. Lane. If we feel she’s guiding in the wrong direction, or doing something wrong we need to point it out to her. In no way should we rubber stamp everything she does, but we owe her the opportunity to finish what she started. Hopefully we all will benefit from it, especially our children.
(Ulish Carter is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 09:11
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